Family Law: Modification of Parenting Plan

If a substantial change in the circumstances of the child or the other parent has occurred since the entry of the Parenting Plan or Residential Schedule, based on new facts that have arisen or that were unknown to the Court at the time of the prior decree or plan, and where a modification of custody is in the best interest of the child, the Court can enter a new Parenting Plan or Residential Schedule and even under certain circumstances change the designated primary residential parent or custodian.

In Washington, either or both parents can petition the Court for the modification of the Parenting Plan or custody. If the Court finds sufficient facts to warrant the custody modification, a trial will be scheduled and the matter proceeds in much the same way as an initial determination of custody. If the proposed modification is only a modification in the dispute resolution process or a minor modification in the residential schedule of the non-primary residential parent, the Court may order adjustments to the Parenting Plan to provide for changes in work schedule or a move to a new geographic area by either parent.

The Court will not change the primary residential parent or custodian, however, unless the parents agree to the modification; or the child has already changed residences by agreement between the parents, UNLESS the child’s present environment is detrimental to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child.

Another reason for modification of custody could be if the Court has found the nonmoving parent in contempt of Court at least twice within three years because the parent failed to comply with the residential time provisions in the Court-ordered Parenting Plan, or the parent has been convicted of custodial interference.